Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Tastes of Travel

'Do they like Greek food?' I asked her, as she was pondering a trip -- with two teenagers in tow -to visit us.  Admitting that she wasn't sure, she added, 'well, your village has a Burger King, doesn't it?' 

No Burger Kings here - thankfully!

Absolutely, not! I replied, perhaps a bit too emphatically.  No Burger King! No McDonalds! No KFC! No, there is nothing with the ring of U.S. chain fast food or drink within 150 miles of us!  

Pork gyro - Greek 'fast food'

And we hope that it stays that way!  

Hamburger and chips - Greek style

You can get a burger and fries here in Agios Nikolaos, or our neighboring villages and Kalamata, but the U.S. teens wouldn't recognize them as the same food they consume from a ubiquitous fast-food drive in. Here the burger is a thick patty of ground beef, and the potatoes are not frozen but fresh cut slices; not called 'fries' but 'chips' (which we Yanks attribute to the British influence). I might add that here 'chips', as in our U.S. vernacular, 'potato chips' are 'crisps.'

We have pizza and Italian cafes in the villages, but again, it isn't what the teens would recognize as a 'U.S. pizza'.

A Greek-style 'Greek salad' aka horiatiki salad here

In the late spring, summer and early fall we have so many Greek taverna and restaurant options that we often don't get to them all in a given season.  And when we have visitors from the States, we take them to as many eateries as we can fit in during their stay so that they can have a taste of Greece.

Pork chop - Greek style

Several tavernas, cafes and eateries close for the winter, but there are always enough remaining open to keep us supplied with souvlakis, pitas, or multi-course Greek meals.  We do love Greek food!  But sometimes we are hit with a difficult to explain, 'culinary wanderlust', which leaves us dreaming about foods such as sushi, paella, grilled salmon, nachos with guacamole. . .all the things we don't have nearby. 

This year, after a nine-month stretch of no travel outside the village, we began fantasizing about our favorite non-Greek flavors and I can honestly say that as result of that, 'eating' played a big role in selecting the cruise we recently took.

The Tastes of Travel

Admittedly, in large cities throughout Europe, including Athens, one can find a vast array of cuisines from around the world. In fact, we've even found a small Hawaiian poke joint not far from Athens Syntagma Square. 

So, it was with a self-confessed foodaholic enthusiasm that we awaited what I now think of as our floating food fest, the cruise that in April took us to Italy, France, Spain and Malta. We were ready for the tastes of travel.

The Wine Experience was a great experience

Our eat-a-thon began in Rome's port town, Civitavecchia. We adore this history-laden town and prefer staying here instead of Rome prior to a cruise. The location of our hotel put us an easy walk from several wine bars. We chose the 'Wine Experience'. And what an experience it was! The small plates - bread, tomatoes, meats, cheeses, potatoes - selected by the owner to pair with the red wine we were quaffing just kept coming until we finally had to declare, Basta! (enough!). 

A berry good breakfast

You might be surprised at how common place are many of the foods for which we were lusting.  This photo represents my favorite breakfast on the ship. Fresh berries. Bowls of fresh berries!  A bit of Muesli, with a serving of strawberries and one of blueberries or blackberries was enough to brighten the start of each day.  Strawberries can be had in our area of Greece, but the season is short. Blueberries, when you can find them, are like buying gold nuggets. Blackberries are simply in scant supply. 

Steak and lobster a standard menu item -eating it on the fantail

We don't eat much Greek beef unless it is served in a slow-cooked stifado (stew) type dish. Greek beef is lean, very lean, and steaks are definitely not the Argentine or USDA type.  So, to see steak on the menu each night of the cruise was sheer delight. 

Asian specialties in the ship's Red Ginger restaurant

However, with so many cuisines to try we found ourselves eating a world of flavors that included. . .Thai satay with peanut sauce, spring rolls, sushi and sashimi. . .

Spanish tapas were temptations on shore and ship

. . .and the Spanish tapas. . .both on shore and on the ship, as we couldn't resist.

Spain's Iberico ham was sliced and sold in cones along with Manchego cheese

We felt like kids in a candy store visiting the public/municipal markets in the port cities we visited. Each offered so many temptations that it was impossible to try them all.

Civitavecchia 'market day' is every day

 And then there were the stops for cappuccinos when we simply couldn't eat anymore. There is no better way to spend a bit of time in a new city than to sip a coffee and people-watch.  One of our favorite memories stems from when we hopped a train to Nice, France and arrived too early to indulge in a Salad Nicoise as planned, so we sipped a coffee and enjoyed a Sunday morning stop at a French brasserie. 

A brasserie for a taste of France

It also seemed that temptations were tucked into window displays everywhere these two foodies looked.  While in Arles, France I found this delightful looking chocolate cat. . .it could have been mine for a mere 42 euros! But it was so cute I'd have never eaten it nor at the price would I have bought it.

French chocolate cat sat in a window display

Our cruise ended in Malta, where we spent a night before flying back to Athens. Our final food fest fling was in an Italian restaurant. The island country of Malta is less than an hour by ferry from Sicily and the Italian influence on its gastronomy is evident. Mama Mia! What a pizza we had. . .but the waiter was disappointed as he couldn't understand how we could eat only half a pizza. Here people ordered whole pizzas for themselves. 

Mama Mia what a pizza!

Our taste buds were satiated. Our travel itch had been calmed by all the new sights we'd seen. Our cravings for food favorites had been curbed. New culinary discoveries had been consumed. It was a great trip!

We've been back a few weeks and found ourselves eager to introduce our recent houseguests to the flavors of Greece again. 

Greek meze plates - an array of tastes

How about you? Do you travel seeking to try new cuisine or do you search for your old favorites? Tell us about it in an email or the comments!   Bon Appetit and Kali Orexi, until the next time. . .

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this post, Jackie. It was fun to see the food! Looks tasty! Have a great summer.


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